As Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) did the media rounds following his first ever Tour de France stage win, his teammate and yellow jersey wearer Tony Martin was climbing into an ambulance by the foot of the podium.
It was a strange situation for the two-time world cyclo-cross champion to be in, as he tried to come to terms with the two conflicting emotions. “I’ve never won a stage of the Tour de France so it’s really for me an amazing feeling but on the other hand I feel very sorry for Tony,” he said after the stage.
With today’s uphill finish expected to be beyond most of the pure sprinters, Stybar and teammate Michal Kwiatkowski had been given free rein to try his hand if they had the opportunity and Mark Cavendish was unable to make it up the climb. After losing position on the descent out of Sainte-Adresse, Stybar thought that he had blown a rare shot at a Grand Tour stage win. He fought his way back through the pack and he spotted his opportunity just inside the final kilometre.
“I thought, ok I’ll try to make it to the front and then when I got to the front then Renshaw swung off. Tony was up there so I thought that he was safe,” explained Stybar. “I was in the wheel of Sagan, Van Avermaet and Kristoff and I could also see that they didn’t really have any help any more. So I thought if I go then maybe I can get a little gap and it would be difficult for them to close the gap on me. I just went, it was a very spontaneous attack and it worked out.”
Stybar was unaware that Martin had gone down at all until he reached the finish line. The German later confirmed that he had broken his collarbone in the incident but the two did not have a chance to cross paths following the stage, and Stybar could only imagine what had happened to Martin.
“It happened behind me. I feel really sorry for Tony, I think he must have really strange feelings here in the Tour. Twice he lost the yellow jersey by two seconds and then he took the yellow jersey on Matteo Trentin’s bike and he won a stage that he probably didn’t expect. Today he crashed so I really think it must be crazy for him,” said Stybar. “Let’s pray that he will be ok, that he can go farther and he can fight tomorrow for the yellow jersey. I don’t even want to think that it’s too serious with Tony.”
Stybar can sympathise with his teammate somewhat, after enduring a crash-marred end to his 2014 season. While crashing out of the Eneco Tour cannot be compared to the Tour de France on any level, the injury was the beginning of a frustrating end to the year.
Another crash at the Ardooie cyclo-cross race resulted in a separated shoulder, which ultimately meant he was unable to defend his cyclo-cross world title. It meant that this has been the first season since moving to Etixx-QuickStep in 2011 that Stybar has put his full focus on the road and his first Tour de France victory more than makes up for the struggles.
“I have been working very hard to make the transition from cyclo-cross to road,” explained Stybar. “I made some nice results like Strade Bianche and winning Eneco GC. Last year I also had a lot of bad luck, with the two crashes. This year I’ve had a little bit of luck with me and I’m really happy that I had the chance today from the team. They told me if I can then I can go for it. It means a lot for me because I don’t get a lot of chances in a year and today I had one and I succeeded.”